St. Lukes Hospital Foundation receives funding support for upgrades

Published 4:38 pm Wednesday, November 24, 2010

St. Lukes Hospital Foundation is another step closer to bridging a technology gap for the hospital, thanks to the support of the Polk County Community Foundation. With an $18,000 grant from PCCF, the St. Lukes Hospital Foundation can move forward to place additional computers throughout the hospital for better electronic communication that will improve patient care.

Meshelle Colvin, executive director of the St. Lukes Hospital Foundation, said the funds will be used to purchase 45 additional desktop computers that will advance patient care through improved efficiency and productivity. It will also move the hospital closer to the goal of implementing Electronic Medical Records (EMR).

Over the past few years, our hospital foundation has been working to fund upgrades in hospital infrastructure, to digitize our diagnostic equipment and enhance the information flow within the hospital, Colvin said. Approximately $382,000 has been raised to date for computer technology.

At this time, it would be next to impossible for the hospital to fund these improvements without the support of our foundation, said Ken Shull, president and chief executive officer of SLH. Our Information Systems project is a major financial undertaking but absolutely necessary for us to provide state of the art patient care and meet compliance for EMRs as defined by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Faced with the task of meeting compliance within tight time parameters, St. Lukes has undergone a thorough assessment of its Information Systems and supporting equipment, installed fiber optic cable throughout the hospital campus, replaced servers and upgraded service to satellite buildings. Strategic steps also include Computers on Wheels for patient care at the bedside and desktop computers for increased access to technology and information.

All of these advances have been made possible with funding support from several sources including Polk County Community Foundation, Colvin said.

While many hospitals utilize computer technology to limit errors, improve care and increase efficiency, the challenge now is to extend its use and integrate it into the routine care processes in all hospitals and medical practices, big and small, in both rural and urban areas. St. Lukes Hospital, both small and rural, is facing this challenge.

We have computer technology; we have digital radiography; we have electronic communication and bedside registration, but we are behind the eight ball when you understand the enormity of what hospitals are facing with EMRs and requirements we must satisfy for Medicare reimbursement, Shull said.

Projected to cost around $2 million, the health information system conversion is under the direction of David Pearson, IT director for St. Lukes. Pearson has worked closely with Carolinas HealthCare System (CHS) of Charlotte to evaluate health information systems that will enable CHS regional facilities to use a common platform.

This will be a major focus of our time and investment, Shull said. Sure, we have some distance to cover, but were on the road to EMRs and integrated technology.